China rewrites Hong Kong textbooks to deny Britain ever ruled the city

·2-min read

China is reportedly rewriting school books in Hong Kong to teach students that the city was never a British colony in an attempt to strengthen its grip on the territory.

Four sets of textbooks for a class on citizenship will teach students that the Chinese government never recognised the 19th-century treaties that ceded Hong Kong to Britain, South China Morning Post has reported.

Britain took Hong Kong Island during the first Opium War, and later in 1898 signed a treaty that gave the monarchy control over adjoining territories for 99 years. The treaties ended on 1 July 1997, when Hong Kong was handed over to Beijing, ending Britain's control over the city.

The ruling Communist Party maintains that the agreements signed by the Qing dynasty were “unequal treaties”.

The new books will also adhere to the Chinese government’s stance on violent pro-democracy protests that rocked the city in 2019, blaming them on “external forces”.

The textbooks were released over the weekend for schools to select for teaching fourth-form students “citizenship and social development” classes from September. The classes were implemented to replace a liberal studies course designed in 2009 to teach students critical thinking.

The liberal studies course was criticised by pro-Beijing authorities in 2020 for allegedly influencing youth to protest against the Communist Party.

In a statement to Bloomberg, the education bureau said textbook publishers are responsible for choosing the appropriate materials for schoolbooks in accordance with guidelines.

According to reports, the books mention the UN removed Hong Kong from a list of British colonies in 1972 after demands from China.

In efforts to justify the sweeping National Security Law, which critics claim was implemented to throttle dissent, one textbook mentions “national security” more than 400 times over its 121 pages. It said the legislation was imposed out of “urgency” to prevent violence.

“Secession and subversion against the government were advocated in some of those activities, posing a threat to national sovereignty, security and interests,” the book highlights, according to the South China Morning Post.

“It is necessary for schools to teach students to think positively and to love their nation,” the head of the education bureau was quoted as saying by the Chinese state-owned Global Times.

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